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Paris Fashion Week: Haute Couture

Paris Haute Couture 2018: the five guest designers to watch as they muscle in on top labels’ spring/summer shows

Expect the achingly cool from Acne Studios, thrifty baroque tailoring from AF Vandevorst, French-influenced flair from Ellery, savvy styles with a luxurious touch from Proenza Schouler and upcycled demi-couture from RVDK

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 7:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 1:47pm

Paris Haute Couture week kicks off on Sunday, and no longer is it the exclusive preserve of brands reaching for the utmost in refined dressing.

For some brands, it’s a move towards a more craft-oriented approach best suited to their creative identities; for others, the January-July dichotomy brings them closer to the reality of their business and their clientele’s desires.

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As the industry continues its ongoing reshuffle, here are five brands who have pushed open the hallowed gates of Paris’ most exclusive fashion club to show their first spring/summer 2018 collections this January.

Acne Studios

Creative director: Jonny Johansson

Origin: Sweden

Acne Studios announced that it will merge its pre-collection and regular womenswear, starting in January 2018, as part of a strategy that aims at a better management of its product drops. The Swedish brand’s menswear show remains firmly in its dedicated slot during the men’s shows; however, its first consolidated offering later this month is in a format yet to be determined and off-schedule.

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Creative director Jonny Johansson was never big on being part of “fashion”, so the couture schedule is no doubt the perfect place for his intelligent, cultured references – such as fashion outsiders, alternative musicians or forgotten art pioneers – to blossom in collections that have but one constant throughout the seasons: their achingly cool desirability.

AF Vandevorst

Designers: An Vandevorst & Filip Arickx

Origin: Belgium

After their show last July, husband-and-wife pair An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx said they’d gone for a guest slot on the couture calendar because it afforded them freedom from the genre’s rules but also from commercial concerns – which were separately addressed by partnering up with pioneering luxury online showroom ordre.com.

This arrangement allowed their labour-intensive creations to attract potential customers and remind those who aren’t already devotees of why the fiercely independent Belgian duo were tapped by Vogue in 2000 as part of “the New Guard” alongside such luminaries as Hedi Slimane, Nicolas Ghesquière and Junya Watanabe.

Expect more thrifty baroque tailoring and elevations of humble materials, all colliding in a visual collage – and a reminder that couture is a state of mind that can elevate any material, should one have the creative chops to deliver it.

Ellery

Designer: Kym Ellery

Origin: Australia

After moving her show to Paris’s ready-to-wear schedule in 2015 and settling in the city herself in 2016, the Australian designer Kym Ellery has opened a new atelier, where her spring/summer 2018 collection will be produced.

Keep an eye out for the influence of French handicrafts on the architectural tailoring and play on volume that put Ellery on the radar of stars like Cate Blanchett, Elle Fanning and scores of other fashion lovers when she launched her namesake brand in 2007.

Proenza Schouler

Designers: Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez

Origin: USA

After landing in Paris with last season’s American contingent alongside Rodarte and Monique Lhuillier, Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez cross the Atlantic for a second turn on the couture schedule. The New York-based duo cited creative reasons for their move, which may not be permanent, but they have also consolidated their collections into two offerings rather than four ready-to-wear and pre-collection showings.

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Evolving outside of the packed ready-to-wear schedule of their hometown has given the duo ample space to express themselves, whilemaking the most of French crafts. The result was the embodiment of a smart New Yorker colliding with unfussy French femininity:a personable mix of savvy styles with a luxurious touch.

RVDK

Designer: Ronald Van Der Kemp

Origin: The Netherlands

For those concerned that fashion has become a cynical business arena, enter Ronald van der Kemp. At the helm of his RVDK label, the Dutch designer is making a point about how to keep the dream of fashion creation alive (and how sustainable fashion can be), even at the highest levels. Although this January marks his second catwalk show, Amsterdam-based van der Kemp has already wowed the Parisian scene thanks to his one-off and demi-couture designs.

The couturier, who cut his chops at fashion brands such as Bill Blass, Guy Laroche, Céline, and Wolford, has long been determined to work on his own terms. Rather than collections, he offers up “wardrobes”, in keeping with the idea that these are clothes that will actually make their way into a woman’s sartorial arsenal.

The key to his high-octane, imagination-fuelled line-ups is his sourcing method. This includes hand-painted fabrics; used leftover yarn for knitwear; rejuvenated fabrics donated from a late Dutch couturier’s archives; or even dead stock of vintage flags, denims and more.

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His supply is finite, and therefore hardly reproducible. It was no surprise then to see impact-conscious Emma Watson step out in a custom black RVDK at the 2018 Golden Globes.